Egghead. Melter. Executioner. Enchantress. Coat of Arms. Big Zero. They're the Young Avengers and . . . what's that? They're not? Well, they're trying to be Marvel's teen heroes, or at least some are in the first part of a five-issue mini series.
We begin with the mystery team taking on grocery store robbers and every member gets a chance to shine. Some get a chance to kill, and take it. One way or another, the thieves won't be causing chaos in the neighbourhood again.
But who are these self-styled Young Avengers? The first four share names with members of the Masters of Evil, Coat of Arms come across like a Swordsman tribute act and Big Zero's nomenclature and racist attitudes suggest Zemo, while her growth powers evoke the evil Goliath and Yellowjacket. Not all the powers on display are copies of their namesakes'; writer Paul Cornell is more imaginative than that. This Egghead, for instance, isn't a human evil genius, he's a robot who can induce time-specific comas. As for the rest, I'll leave you to discover the details for yourself - this is a comic well worth trying, full of surprising new characters and mysteries to savour. And given Cornell's imaginative abilities, as displayed in his Captain Britain and MI13 series, I couldn't begin to predict where this book will go.
Among the delights on display are the Asgardian Enchantress, Sylvie's, attempts to adjust to US speech patterns; the name and nature of the secret headquarters; and Coat of Arms' unique approach to superheroics.
As for the art, Mark Brooks makes a decent fist of the storytelling - bar a jarring, unnecessary sideways splash, very Nineties - but I'd like to see him with a traditional inker. I'm not sure whether he has digitally inked his pencils, or if it's been left to colour artist Christina Strain to handle the modelling via her hues, but the overall result is blotchy where I'd prefer sharp blacks. And what's with the random horizontal streaks of colour on folks' hair? I've never understood how this is meant to be motivated by lighting - is it a manga thing?
The cover by Brooks and Strain is very nice, a take-off on Young Avengers #1, right down to the cover copy - a clever topper to a very smart debut issue.